Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Downs’

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

September 19-25, 2014

Racing at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs has geared down somewhat in terms of quantity, as the schedule now features three live nights per week. But the quality hasn’t let down a bit, as evidenced by a Saturday night card that included no pacing miles slower than 1:50:2 and no trotting miles slower than 1:54. We even had a world-record performance, which, of course, stands out among this edition of the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: BIGTOWN HERO

This 6-year-old gelding was struggling with the upper reaches of the pacing ranks when he was last here in June, but he’s been performing well since then at other tracks, winning three of his last five races. The last four of those races came after he switched barns to be trained by Rene Allard, Pocono’s leading trainer, including a come-from-behind win in an Open Handicap in his last race at Yonkers as a 7-1 shot.

His confidence sufficiently boosted, he returned to Pocono to compete on Saturday night in a Preferred Handicap pace for a purse of $25,000. It was a stacked field, including star veteran Golden Receiver and Dancin Yankee, who had owned the oval at Pocono in his previous appearances in 2014. But driver Ron Pierce drove Bigtown Hero as if there were no other horses on the track, sending him to the front for a huge lead as each fraction ticked off proved more impressive than the one before.

In the stretch, Bigtown Hero began to slow ever so slightly. It was a good thing the lead he built up was so substantial, because Dancin Yankee and Aslan came closing at him fast. Pierce urged him home for a half-length victory in a stunning time of 1:47:3. That broke the world record for aged gelding pacers on a 5/8-mile oval, which was set last June at Pocono by Foiled Again and then matched by Abelard Hanover.

Other top pacers this week include: Ring Warrior (Matt Kakaley, Brewer Adams), a colt who followed up four consecutive wins at Ocean Downs with a victory at Pocono in a condition pace on Tuesday night in a career-best 1:54; Cherokee Hunter (Simon Allard, Rene Allard) whose condition win on Tuesday night was his second straight and came in a career-best time of 1:52:1; and Wake Up Peter (Tyler Buter, Larry Remmen), who scorched a condition pacing group on Saturday night in 1:49:2.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: SEVRUGA

Not all slumps are created equal. To wit, consider the struggles Sevruga had been having in the summer months. Last year he earned nearly $500,000 facing the best trotters around, and the highlight of his season was a world-record performance at Pocono with a win in 1:50:3. But he had come up empty for three months straight in terms of wins heading into Saturday night’s $25,000 Preferred trot.

In his last three races at Pocono, all against the most rugged trotters on the grounds, Sevruga, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Kevin Carr, had hit the board every time and had lost by just a neck in the last two. On Saturday night, he enjoyed his first quality post position in more than a month and took advantage of it, breezing to the front early with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike.

Things were by no means easy from that point, as Wind Of The North put up a sustained first-over challenge to the lead. But Sevruga had been rated well enough early in the race that he was able to dig deep in the final strides and win by a nose in a rapid 1:52:1. Maybe it wasn’t fair to say that Sevruga was in a slump considering the quality of his competition and the multiple near-misses, but it is fair to say that his losing streak is history and a lengthy winning streak might just be in the offing.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Tui (Anthony Napolitan, Don Wiest), a Pocono fan-favorite mare who scored her first win of the season on Saturday night in a tough condition group in 1:53:1; A Cool Million (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who moved up her claiming price and won her second straight race on Tuesday night, doing so in a career-best 1:54; and Fortunista (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), a mare who beat the boys in a tough condition group on Saturday night in a career-best 1:53:1.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: TRANSCENDING

An outside post and long odds didn’t bother this veteran pacer as he came from out of the clouds late to shock a condition field on Saturday night at 49-1, paying off an even $100 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: RON PIERCE

Pierce had it grooving on Saturday night, winning four consecutive races on the card, all in gate-to-wire fashion, a streak that culminated with the world-record win by Bigtown Hero.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Joe still does such a great job as a catch driver that his training abilities can sometimes be taken for granted, but a training double on Wednesday night put them front and center.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.

Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Week in Review

Friday, June 29th, 2012

June 22-28, 2012

Normally, I use this space each week to detail the exploits of several of the racing stars at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This week is an exception, because one performance was so outstanding that it outshone all others, even in a week that witnessed several track records falling by the wayside in the eliminations for the Ben Franklin, James M. Lynch, and Max C. Hempt stakes races.

The performance in question was put in by a horse with an odd name and an even odder story. Googoo Gaagaa is that unique colt, proof that absolutely anything can happen in the sport of harness racing. In the past two weeks, he has done things at Pocono that no trotter has ever done, a fact made even more amazing when you consider the origins of this one-of-a-kind performer.

Richard Hans is an owner and trainer of horses on the Maryland circuit, and he attempted a few years back to breed a trotting mare he had purchased named Kora’s Trotter to another trotter, but no offspring resulted. Wanting to get something for his money, he matched Kora’s Trotter with a pacer that he owned named Cam’s Rocket. The result was Googoo Gaagaa.

Googoo Gaagaa began racing in Maryland last season as a 2-year-old, and the results were astounding. He won every one of his six trots, capping the season with a ridiculous 41-length win in the finals of the Maryland Sire Stakes at Ocean Downs. Hans resisted overtures from big racing syndicates to purchase the horse in the offseason, even as skeptics doubted the colt’s ability to face off against tougher trotters he would inevitably meet outside of his home state.

Those skeptics seemed prophetic when Googoo Gaagaa’s first start in 2012 and his first out of his Maryland ended with a break of stride at Harrah’s. Two weeks later, he bounced back with a sizzling win on the same track, and he followed that up with a win in the Simpson at The Meadowlands and a victory over older condition trotters at Harrah’s.

Hans handed the reins over to Corey Callahan for those races, and driver and horse got along extremely well. Next up was the elimination for the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial trot at Pocono on June 16. This seemed like it would be the colt’s toughest test yet, and yet Callahan never lifted a finger as Googoo Gaagaa romped to win in 1:51:3, which set a new world record for 3-year-old colts on the trot, almost a full second faster than the previous mark.

All of that led up to Saturday night’s final. As a sports fan, I can think of so many occasions where the storyline was so perfect up until the ending, only to have something unexpected happen to ruin the ideal finish. As I prepared to call the Beal final, the cynic in me wondered if the Cinderella story of Googoo Gaagaa had run its course and fate would intervene in the final.

Instead, Googoo Gaagaa put on a performance for the ages. He took over the lead on the front stretch from Stormin Normand, a superstar colt in his own right who, in any other year, would have won this race in record-setting fashion. In the stretch, Stormin Normand came hard at the leader, and Callahan asked for more from his horse for the first time.

To say that the colt responded would be an understatement of epic proportions. Even though he had set nasty fractions throughout the mile, Googoo Gaagaa found another gear late and burned his way home to the win in 1:50:4.

That’s right: 1:50:4. I called the race a few years when Arch Madness trotted a mile of 1:51, which set the world record for all age groups at a 5/8-mile oval. It was so ridiculously fast that I never thought anyone would approach it again. Googoo Gaagaa not only approached it; he bested it, becoming the fastest trotter ever at a track size used by many of the top tracks in the country.

After the race, our television personnel, Kelly Connors and George Anthony, interviewed a jubilant Callahan and a reluctant Hans. The trainer couldn’t wait to get off the stage, while Callahan chuckled at Hans’ one-word answers to the questions.

They made quite the odd couple, but, then again, Googoo Gaagaa is one odd horse, although what’s truly odd about him really isn’t his name or his pedigree or his connections or anything else in his unlikely rise to the top of the trotting world. He’s odd in terms of the fact that he can trot faster than just about any horse on the planet right now. That’s the kind of odd any horsemen would want.

That’s it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.